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Opinion: Seven tips to dominate your next test

(Illustration by Ailsa Thai)

You took all your notes. You stayed for tutoring. You studied all week. (Right?) Yet, the minute you received that test form, your mind collapsed, your anxiety reached an all-time high, your time ran out, and… you lost. Little did you know there are a few test-taking tips that could mean the difference between a pass and a fail. Keep in mind these small habits and tricks the next time a big test comes around.

  1. It’s one of the two.

Sometimes the process of elimination doesn’t work – especially if you have no idea what the answer is – so you’re left with a twenty-five percent chance of getting it right. So, narrow your answers down to the two choices that look almost the same. Test-makers like to confuse students – at least I think so, from my own experiences – by putting an answer that looks like the right one but, in fact, isn’t. It’s very likely that the correct answer is one of the two similar choices.

  1. Skim over the test.

Flip through the test as soon as you get it. You want to know how many multiple choice questions and how many free-responses are in your test so that you can pace yourself. You never want to dive in blindly, only to finish the multiple choice sections without time to look at the free-response and essays.

  1. Study before sleeping.

This doesn’t mean to cram last minute. Just go over the material you need to know a little bit every night, starting a few days before the big day. Studies have shown that studying before sleeping makes things stick. So far, it’s worked every time for me.

  1. Bring a watch…

… Especially for timed tests, like the SAT or AP tests. It just makes it way more convenient to check the time and pace yourself. Sure, the teacher or proctor will tell you five minutes before the time is up, but you don’t want to be rushing in the end. And you definitely don’t want to rush when you think you’ve run out of time but haven’t.

  1. Don’t erase.

When you’re working out math problems for multiple choice questions, there’s no point in erasing – no one’s going to check your work (unless your teacher tells you otherwise). If you make a mistake, just (neatly) cross it out and move on. Erasing takes up valuable time – every second counts – and can interrupt your train of thought.

  1. Pay attention to your bubbles.

You never want to be bubbling in the wrong answers. This happens frequently when you’ve skipped questions, so to be safe, stop every now and then to check that your bubbles match your answers.

  1. Warm up your brain.

Ever go into a test with a mind-block? You’re looking at the words or numbers, but youcan’t understand them, no matter how hard you try. “Unblock” your brain before a test, with some last-minute review or studying.

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